Today’s Sunday, and we successfully navigated the bus system to get to the Church of England congregation we intend to worship with. The people are quite nice and have been kind enough to chat with us at the after-service coffee at a restaurant near the church. They tell us that they mostly understand us, despite our funny accents. The service is more high church than we’re used to; there’s a lot of standing and people bowing to the altar. It’s different from what we’re used to, but that’s how they do things, and they’re kind enough to let us participate. So rest assured that we are getting spiritual succor, and we’re in no more peril to our immortal souls than usual.
After church Mark and I went out to lunch at a restaurant near our apartment. The restaurant is called “El Pescador,” which means The Fisherman. We ordered paella partly because it’s delicious and partly because it’s the 34th anniversary of the evening we met. Lots of you have heard the story before – Cajun restaurant, blind date, mega attraction at first sight, Mark singing to me during dinner, etc., etc. etc., as the King of Siam would say.
Since that fateful night in 1985, we’ve gone out to eat Cajun food to celebrate our meet-a-versary. This year finding a Cajun restaurant was a little more complicated than usual. There’s actually an establishment at the edge of town that advertises itself as such, but frankly we were a little dubious and opted for El Pescador. After all, paella is a lot like gumbo mixed with rice and baked, isn’t it?
But it turns out there are rules about paella that you probably only grow up knowing if you’re from this neck of the woods. First and foremost, paella is a midday meal, not a dish for a late supper. One very obliging Spanish friend explained that paella is so heavy that it’s eaten at lunch and followed by a rest time. Works for me! So Mark and I forewent a Cajun-ish supper and celebrated at lunch. (Sure enough, I came home and promptly took a 90-minute nap.) So when in Spain, do as the Spanish do, and observe the rules of paella.
That experience is sort of what being in a new place is in a nutshell, isn’t it? You find touchstones – a church service, a scrumptious dish – and make it your own, while respecting and trying to participate the way the locals do. I may be a little too Methodist to bow to an altar, but standing for longer parts of the church service is okay. And paella in the midday instead of at night is fine. I had a great meal and a lovely nap, and really no one would care anyway if we broke with convention and chowed down at night. After all, paella was made for man, not man for paella! But for now we’ll keep on learning what our new neighbors have to teach us and being grateful for the old and the new in our lives.